The scent of pine fills the crisp air as local villagers select their perfect tree. Picking the tree is the easy bit, creating a perfect Christmas is a bit trickier . . .
Nina has the most magical job in the world, matching customers with their perfect Christmas tree. Working at Christmas Tree Farm is always fun and full of laughter, but the weight of past tragedy bears down on her. Her admirer is a great distraction, but is he the right man for her? Holly is just trying to be a normal teenager, having to deal with the mean girls in her class. But then the most handsome boy at school takes an interest in her. Have all her Christmases come at once? Angie is trying to bring her family together and save her broken marriage. It’s not something she can force, but it’s the only gift she craves. Will her Christmas wish come true? It’s the season of goodwill, and at Christmas Tree Farm anything could happen . . .
I wait at the end of the Costa counter, clutching a spoon in my hand, watching the barista put together my hazelnut latte. All morning I’ve been dreaming of this latte. It’s my treat for working part-time in the chemist and wearing this awful nylon uniform, which clings to my woollen tights.
‘Hazelnut latte!’ The barista shouts past me as if he can’t see me waiting by the countertop. I step forward and receive the warm offering, eager to scoop the cream from the top as I walk home.
‘Holly!’ screams a group of teenage girls from the seated area. I turn around and instantly regret reacting to their outburst. Six smirking faces, with smudged eye-liner and overpainted mouths, creepily smirk back. ‘Come and join us!’ hollers Paris, one of the mean girls from school. A cackle of laughter bursts from the other five as they try to hide behind each other.
Head down, I dash towards the exit, my blonde ponytail swinging with each step.
They’re about as funny as chlamydia, as my best friend, Demi, would say.
Once I make it to Long Street, I stare fixedly ahead and walk past the remainder of the coffee shop’s large window where I can undo the lid on my latte to scoop and walk. Scoop and enjoy. Scoop and relax. Scoop and forget.
‘Holly!’ a male voice calls from behind me. ‘Wait!’
I continue to stride along Atherstone’s busy street. No one in this world can make me stop and stand, giving those six bitches something to watch or even record on their phones to post on social media. As soon as I reach the safe frontage of the chip shop next door, I stop and turn.
It’s Alfie Woodward. My stomach flips, and I nearly drop my latte. I quickly plunge my spoon into my coat pocket; it feels babyish to be scooping cream when it’s Alfie. Every girl in year eleven, no, scrap that, every girl in our school wants to be friends with Alfie Woodward. He’s the ‘darling of the ladies’, as my mum would put it. And, get me, Alfie Woodward, from the back row in chemistry class, actually knows my name. Not a reaction that the mean girls would have intended for me.
‘Hi. I didn’t think you’d heard me,’ he says, zipping up his jacket as he nears. His dark hair is shorter than in yesterday’s chemistry class – obviously, that has been his Saturday morning task.
‘Sorry… I… well.’ I shrug, looking up into his smiling face. What am I supposed to call the name-hollering in Costa?
‘I was inside with Jordan and Tom. I heard them catcalling you. Anyway, ignore them… I was wondering if you were going to the youth club on Tuesday night? I go most weeks. Your mate Demi goes sometimes, but you’re never there!’
I shrug. What can I say? Err nope, because the mean girls go every week? Or how about, yeah, sure, I’ll turn up, get verbally abused for two hours and return home to cry… sure, save me a seat, and I’ll see you at seven on Tuesday?
‘There are others that attend, not just those witches,’ he adds as if he can read my thoughts. ‘I could call round for you if you want?’
Alfie Woodward calling for me!
I blush. I see his blue eyes swirl and scan my features, taking in the subtle change in my pale complexion. Holly Turner, for once in your goddamned life play it cool.
‘Well?’ A tiny smile frames his top row of perfect teeth.
I purse my lips together to hide the metal train tracks that I begged my parents for, but now wish I’d never had. Right now, I’d much prefer my unsightly teeth buckle.
I give the smallest nod, having lost the ability to communicate in English. In fact, if Alfie stands before me for very much longer, with his new haircut, smart zipped jacket and white trainers, there is a chance I may abandon control of my grip and lose this latte to the pavement.
‘OK. I’ll drop round just before seven on Tuesday.’
Brain now is the time to function, be it a simple OK. Please don’t let me down, not right now.
‘Thanks, Alfie, that’d be nice of you. See you.’ I turn about quickly. It seems rude, but I can’t face him any longer. My smile is going to burst forth, and I’m about to do the geekiest grin ever witnessed on Atherstone’s Long Street.
‘OK, see you in school,’ he calls, as I head towards home.
‘Yeah, first thing in chemistry.’
‘No, you’ve got history first, then geography…’
I attempt a nonchalant wave. Demi is not going to believe this.
Erin Green – Guest post.
Five delights of being an author
Meeting and chatting with readers is definitely my number one delight since my debut was published. I am amazed that within days of a book being published readers and bloggers have finished reading and are wanting more. Their questions range from specifics details about a certain character through to enquiring about my current writing project. I love the way readers are unsure about interrupting your conversation to ask questions but within minutes are chatting away like an old-school friend. I’m delighted when they’ve fallen in love with a particular male character and surprised to hear their reasons for liking him. Some readers have taken some convincing that each hero isn’t based on an actual male in real life.
Spending my time plotting and writing new books – my philosophy in life is to live, love and laugh so, it’s essential to me that these three elements are woven into my narrative. It isn’t my intention to bring a tear to the eye of my readers, but it has happened to many while reading my first three books. I always feel slightly guilty when I’m told, but really it is the best review I can ever receive.
Research has taken on a surprising new role in my life. I can literally spend hours searching through records, business directories and historical maps at my local library – which allows me to recreate specific locations and settings. On numerous occasions, I have found myself distracted by a sudden find which takes my muse in a new direction – it’s a light bulb moment when the surprise find links neatly into the narrative. I have learnt so much about topics that I’d previously known nothing about from Christmas tree species, steam trains, genetics and urban myths – which is a hidden benefit.
Being asked to sign books with quirky messages of love and appreciation. I’m always thrilled to sign books purely because I waited so long. I always panic that I’ll spell their name incorrectly and ruin their book so end up spelling and repeating even the easiest spellings to ensure I get it right. It is bound to happen at some time, and I know I’ll feel gutted and probably write a mini-apology alongside my signature.
Seeing a new book cover for the first time is indescribable. You spend the morning awaiting an email from your publishers, but on arrival, you are frozen with fear and can’t open it. Seriously, how ridiculous is that! Thankfully for me, once I’ve opened the email, I’ve fallen in love with all three of my book covers and raced about showing anyone who is interested. Later, when the book cover appears on Amazon, it suddenly becomes very real, and my countdown begins to publication day.
Christmas isn’t Christmas without a Christmas tree, and this lovely, festive tale set on a Christmas tree farm follows the lives of three woman, as they try to find happiness.
Nina’s story is the most poignant. Instantly likeable you struggle to understand why she is so unhappy but once revealed, you want her story to end happily. Holly is about to experience her first love, something we can all remember, even though some of us will have to think back. Her story is gentle and romantic. Angie is trying to reclaim lost love; sometimes you have to lose something to appreciate it.
All the stories are separate yet linked by others in the story, the setting provides festive magic and reading this lets you remember some of the best and worst things about this iconic time of year.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Erin was born and raised in Warwickshire, where she resides with her husband. She writes contemporary novels focusing on love, life and laughter. An ideal day for Erin involves writing, people watching and copious amounts of tea. Erin was delighted to be awarded The Katie Fforde Bursary in 2017 and previously, Love Stories ‘New Talent Award’ in 2015. Twitter Facebook